ECHL: Savannah Ghost Pirates Announce New Affiliation

Since the announcement of the new ECHL teams joining the league, it has been speculated that the Savannah Ghost Pirates would lose their affiliation with the Vegas Golden Knights. Why? One of the teams announced making their debut this season is the Tahoe Knight Monsters, a team less than eight hours by car and two by plane that shares the KNIGHT name—like their AHL Henderson Silver Knights, who are literally in their backyard. So Tahoe joining the Vegas franchise makes sense. Rumors began to fly when Alex Loh, former assistant coach and interim head coach, was hired by the Tahoe Knight Monsters and when Jared Staal was hired by Savannah. Affiliation change rumors with the Florida Panther and Carolina Hurricane rumors started due to association. Carolina was fed because Jared’s brother, Jordan Staal, plays with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Panthers because Charlotte Checkers, their AHL team, was previously Jared’s employer and is part of the Panther affiliation.

 Well, where does that leave Savannah? While Vegas has not announced its new affiliation, Savannah announced Monday, June 17th, that they are officially joining the Florida Panthers affiliation.

So, there is no more Chance and the Golden Ghost, but “Time to Haunt” starts now, and the Ghost Pirates look to make this the best season since their inauguration in 21-22. Hopeful is the heart that the Panthers fan base is as welcoming as the Golden Knights have been. The Ghost Pirates were Vegas’s third ECHL, while Vegas was their first NHL affiliate. 

Why does Florida make sense as the Ghost Pirates’ new affiliation? They are much closer in distance, as they are on the same side of the country. But it’s not just about proximity. The Ghost Pirates are only going into their third season, while the Panthers have been a franchise for decades. The Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, also makes strategic sense to be associated with the Ghost Pirates as they are about four hours by car and 45 minutes by plane. 

It’s important to recognize that Savannah was put at a significant disadvantage last season with their AHL and NHL affiliate call-ups. Vegas, dealing with injury after injury, relied heavily on the Henderson Silver Knights, which in turn relied heavily on the Savannah Ghost Pirates. This led to the team consistently not being at full strength, which directly impacted the Ghost Pirates’ results in points in gameplay. As multiple times last season, Savannah saw players playing shortly after the cross-country trip to Henderson, seeing how Jet lag and time difference can affect the body.

The Ghost Pirates’ new head coach, Jared Staal, could have also been a huge deciding factor. Before joining the Ghost Pirates, he was part of the coaching staff in Charlotte with the Checkers, not only as a coach but also as a player. 

From one Stanley Cup Champion to possibly another. The Florida Panthers were previously associated with the Florida Everblades. They chose not to renew that affiliation even though the Everblades won the Kelly Cup the past three seasons, two of those wins under their affiliation. As we look to the future, only time will tell how much this new affiliation will benefit the Ghost Pirates. However, it’s worth noting that the Everblades made it to the Kelly Cup Final two years in a row under the Panthers affiliation. Could this luck come from the Panthers, as they have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row season, be the turnaround Savannah needs? It’s hard to say, but with these changes, it definitely seems like the team is moving in the right direction for improved logistics and functionality. It’s definitely going to be an amazing season for the Ghost Pirates and their affiliations. 

Stephanie DeLaFleur

Beat Writer covering the ECHL Savannah Ghost Pirates, NHL Vegas Golden Knights and AHL Henderson Silver Knights. Follow me on X @StephiDelafleur

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